Survation qualitative, life online is the new normal.
Just a few weeks ago, HouseParty was not an app that I would have dreamed that I’d be using on a Friday night, but fast forward into week two of the lockdown and more and more family and friends (of all ages) are signing up for virtual Friday night chats, quizzes and games. An upside of this for qualitative researchers is that our audience is feeling even more comfortable and equipped to take part in online research, and what’s more, enjoying participating on a range of online platforms.
As people use digital tools to find new ways stay connected to friends and family, we are also seeing a broader acceptance of the value of online tools for qualitative research. This change in how we are living and communicating is giving our industry the drive to work out new ways of running research as well as analysing data.
At Survation we have been conducting online qualitative research for many years and this focus on digital qualitative is giving us an opportunity to use these tools with a wider range of clients. Back in 2012 I started to regularly run online text-based focus groups and online discussion boards and I’ve had chance over the years to fine-tune which approaches work best to meet the needs of different projects.
Whilst we don’t want to pretend that conducting research in the pandemic is without challenges – over the last few weeks we have had to quickly swap some face-to-face research for online at short notice. However, with years of experience using these approaches we are able to adapt and share the approaches we will be recommending to our clients in the weeks, perhaps even months ahead.
Text based online focus groups – text-based chat is one of the best ways to explore public opinion on sensitive topics; from politics to personal finances the freedom of an anonymised online environment encourages open and honest discussion. Participants are used to communicating via text – email, messages, social media. Communicating via text feels natural and comfortable to many people and allows us to reach audiences who would otherwise not be able to participate in research – niche and hard to reach groups from across the UK.
Over the last 8 years, I have conducted hundreds (maybe thousands!) of text-based focus groups and have had many comments from clients about how frank and in-depth the discussion has been. Another benefit is that there is less group bias, participants generally type their responses at the same time, so no one set of views dominates the discussion.
Zoom, not just for meetings – there are many different video meeting systems out there which provide great solutions for both client meetings and interviews too. Zoom is a great alternative to a face-to-face depth interview, where moderator and participant can talk, and information can be shared. It’s easy to capture and share video output on Zoom too, which can really bring the interviews to life as we navigate the pandemic.
Experimenting with AI – voice recognition apps offer voice to text services allowing voice conversations to be almost instantly turned into searchable notes. Using an AI voice translation app for an interview for example, will instantly translate the conversation into a set of text notes as you are talking. I’ve tried a few of these services over the last year and whilst they are not quite ready to replace transcripts, they can help us with our analysis.
Online boards and diaries – as the pace of life slows down for many people and the lockdown forces people to be at home, longitudinal online bulletin boards and forums provide a convenient way of tracking how attitudes and opinions shift over time. We find that online boards are great for checking sentiment, sharing concepts and communications and tracking how people are feeling. One way of using this is to iteratively test communications and strategies for businesses who are adjusting their approach to communicating with their audiences. As people have more time at home, they have more capacity to engage with us in longitudinal research over the days and weeks ahead.
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